Betsy Speicher

... It's wassup, Bro.

42 posts in this topic

With the millions of copies Miss Rand's works have sold, I think it's not a stretch to say that a majority of Americans have at least heard of Objectivism by now. So the question for me is not mainly whether they mention Ayn Rand anymore, but how they mention her.

It was precisely the "how" of the Ayn Rand mention that I found so remarkable; in the segment they correctly presented some assessments of Atlas Shrugged and of the philosophy. I wish academia got it that right!

I do not know -- and, probably will never know -- why such an accurate assessment of Ayn Rand's work was inserted into the script for that comedy show, but I found it delightful to see and hear such a mention on TV. This was not The Simpsons "Ayn Rand School for Tots" silliness, but rather an accurate representation of some Objectivist ideas. I don't know if any watcher of the show will benefit from those remarks, or if Atlas or Objectivism will be taken more seriously as a result. To me, that is beside the point. The real thrust was to see and hear the ideas accurately presented as a matter of course on a TV show. Alex's "jaw-dropping" comment sums it up nicely.

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It was precisely the "how" of the Ayn Rand mention that I found so remarkable; in the segment they correctly presented some assessments of Atlas Shrugged and of the philosophy. I wish academia got it that right!

I do not know -- and, probably will never know -- why such an accurate assessment of Ayn Rand's work was inserted into the script for that comedy show, but I found it delightful to see and hear such a mention on TV. This was not The Simpsons "Ayn Rand School for Tots" silliness, but rather an accurate representation of some Objectivist ideas. I don't know if any watcher of the show will benefit from those remarks, or if Atlas or Objectivism will be taken more seriously as a result. To me, that is beside the point. The real thrust was to see and hear the ideas accurately presented  as a matter of course on a TV show. Alex's "jaw-dropping" comment sums it up nicely.

I agree with all this.

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To make the analogy more accurate, I would say that the four-year-old child is not your daughter -- or mine -- but has grown up with parents who are deaf-mutes [...]

I think I need to clarify a little what I meant by my analogy. When you embark on a long-term endeavor, you will be excited to see the first results. Then, as you proceed and the results become ever more frequent, it is natural--and generally proper--for you to get used to seeing results and for your "excitement threshold" to rise, so your expectations keep becoming higher and you are motivated to achieve greater and greater results.

So the four-year-old girl in my analogy corresponds to the endeavor--the endeavor of spreading Objectivism--not to the author of this show. And my point is that we already know she can speak: Ayn Rand's books have sold millions of copies; Objectivism is mentioned regularly in the media; thousands of students are entering the annual essay contests; Thom Hartman finds it important to have Objectivist intellectuals on his show in order to "hear the other side" ; The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are featured in the Limbaugh Library. Even my liberal friend in Frankfurt, Germany, has heard of Ayn Rand, and not from me. You needn't go far to read of Objectivism's successes; just look at the other threads in this very subforum!

But to leave analogies behind and be specific -- the joke that seems to be the cause of concern was a remark by a character who is clearly not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and I am sure that this aspect of his character is used in show after show as fodder for jokes. Now you may disagree that this is a proper subject for humor, or is tasteful or whatever, but that is the level of the show.

My objection is in the third category. :o Specifically, I think that the joke is WAY too resembling of an anti-capitalist attempt at countering the idea that it is the efforts of the producers that makes the world function. I do not object to the character making a silly joke--but the silly joke could have been about anything: about the color of the letters on the cover, about the weight of the book, about shrugging, about that mountain in Africa, about the absence of maps in the book, et cetera, what have you ... Out of so many potential jokes, why did it have to be exactly the one a Commie might have thought of?

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CF said: "I think that the joke is WAY too resembling of an anti-capitalist attempt at countering the idea that it is the efforts of the producers that makes the world function...Out of so many potential jokes, why did it have to be exactly the one a Commie might have thought of?"

I think you're wrong, CF. The context, the character, the absence of any other attempt within that clip to offer anti-capitlist ideas... all of it points to what the earlier poster wrote: that this joke was just an attempt to portray that character's less-than-profound grasp of what's profound.

It's a common humor device: when a character is to be portrayed as a simpleton (usually not in a malevolent way), the character will be made to utter some mundane quirk as if it's a proundly important observation. The more sincere the character's portrayal, the funnier he appears. (The observation will frequently play on a double-meaning or idiomatic phrase, so often this type of humor doesn't translate well to other languages.) Now watch the clip again, especially the character's overly sincere satisfaction at questioning what Atlas was standing on (observe the girl's reaction, too). Still think the show's writers were smuggling Marxist subtexts?

(Incidentally,If I took a time machine back to my adolescent days, I'm sure I could catch myself making this same what's-atlas-standing-on? comment (as a joke). I had no Marxist intentions in doing so)

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The context, the character

OK, I think I'm starting to get what you're not getting. :o I know that the remark is not meant as a serious, philosphical, intellectual one. The author does want us to see it as a not-so-bright guy's silly attempt at being witty. He does want us to laugh at him. I recognize all this, so you needn't try to prove it to me. ;)

But jokes have meanings too. Silly utterances by dim bulbs have meanings too. Or at least they can have meanings, and this one does; it has a potential interpretation that is very philosphical. And it's not just some obscure stretch of imagination; it's the first thing that comes to your mind if you consider the content, and not the source, of the remark for a moment.

Remember Ellsworth Toohey? He was a funny guy too. He took advantage of the premise that "Jokes are not to be interpreted." Whenever there's a laugh at the end of the sentence, do as if it had not been uttered at all; just laugh, don't think. It's as if life was split into two parts, a serious one and a funny one, with an impenetrable wall between them; as if earnestness necessitated morosity and fun precluded earnestness. "As long as you laugh at it, anything goes."

There is no such wall in reality. There is no work-fun dichotomy. You cannot dismiss a falsehood as inconsequential just because it comes in the form of a joke. All ideas have consequences.

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I watched the video clip the first time a couple of days ago and it didn’t leave much of an impression. I thought that it is good to hear Ayn Rand being mentioned on a TV sitcom and I also had a momentary groan as I wasn’t sure what the insinuation was suppose to mean about sex in Atlas Shrugged. That, to me, could cheapen the philosophy or the book. But I have a similar reaction when people discuss and focus on Ayn Rand’s personal/romantic life.

I could be far off base here, but I think I understand what CF means when he uses the term “proper” when hearing Objectivism or the name of Ayn Rand mentioned in new or unusual circumstances.

Today I watched the video clip a second time and noticed I missed more than half of it the first time. I do like how the boy explains Ayn Rand’s concept of a “hero” in Atlas Shrugged.

Stephen mentioned something about The Simpons episode which featured Ayn Rand’s School for Tots. I saw that episode and don’t know if it was an inside joke about something. I didn’t get it.

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I can't take the previous interpretation seriously. The context does not warrant it, and the method is sheer projection instead of demonstration.

Anyone can see the evidence that I offered for my opinion by looking at sit coms -- the regular use of preaching, the regular use of dumb characters as foils for jokes, the fact of the literal interpretation, etc. And I can now see that even offering this analysis was a mistake - because I was attempting to refute an arbitrary interpretation, which is inadmissible on the grounds that it depends entirely on projection, i.e. on what a Communist might think of.

Analysis must include objective demonstration. And serious analysis can only rationally be applied in serious contexts anyway, about things that have serious consequences; e.g. philosophy, education, politics, and art.

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CF said: "But jokes have meanings too...Or at least they can have meanings...".

I agree. And further, I agree with much of your elaboration in your post.

I just don't agree that that joke had a meaning in that clip.

Some reasons:

1. A subtext of Marxism would seem to miss any intended audience, both by being aimed at a non-receptive audience, and by being over their heads (judging by the clip, it's not geared toward geniuses -- more akin to Fred Sanford than Frazier Crane)

2. There 's nothing else in the clip to indicate any anti-capitalist bias.

3. If a writer were trying to advance Marxism, why have the stupidest character voice this ideal? It would be like an Objectivist writer trying to slip a Rand reference into Homer Simpson dialog.

4. I would think that if anyone on the writing staff were concerned with advancing Marxism, they also never would have let the description of Objectivism be presented accurately, in the same scene.

5. I doubt anyone on that show could have come up with the reference you suggest. It's to subtle and intelligent (albeit wrong). None of the rest of the writing indicated such capacity for such subtlety.

Finally, I thought to myself, that if I were writing for such a show, and the scene called for this character to attempt, but fail, to help the girl with her philosophy exam, and the line began with the book Atlas Shrugged featured prominently, I'd probably come up with a similar line. It followed pretty naturally from the context.

[Note: this post now officially holds my personal record for most mental effort ever extended, relative to any personal relevance of the topic. See my related monograph on lawnmower repair.]

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I thought the clip was quite good overall but it was funny for me in a different way. Most of you probably don't know, and have no reason to know, that the rich kid explaining Atlas Shrugged is Ray J, a fairly famous singer/actor, his older sister being platinum recording artist Brandy. His music isn't very good and he's never stepped out of his sister's shadow but my twin brother has recently been playing and singing his boring new single nonstop. But, after watching the clip of this show, he's moved up a notch in my book.

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And serious analysis can only rationally be applied in serious contexts anyway, about things that have serious consequences; e.g. philosophy, education, politics, and art.

This is the premise I was talking about.

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1. A subtext of Marxism would seem to miss any intended audience, both by being aimed at a non-receptive audience, and by being over their heads

You are right about the audience not being interested in politics (nor in philosophy in general), nor probably very intelligent. But this is exactly why it may work on them. As Miss Rand said, "The men who are not interested in philosophy need it most urgently; they are most helplessly in its power."

Sure, the non-philosophically-interested, non-intelligent members of the audience will not consciously think, "Oh, so Atlas has nothing to stand on, but if you turn the whole thing upside down, everything becomes clear." But the picture of Atlas Shrugged turned upside down and "it all making sense then" will remain with them subconsciously. And, especially because these members of the audience do not tend to think consciously about philosophy, they're in danger of being misled by that subconscious image.

2. There 's nothing else in the clip to indicate any anti-capitalist bias.

It's made in Hollywood, isn't it? Most people in Hollywood aren't fond of capitalism.

3. If a writer were trying to advance Marxism, why have the stupidest character voice this ideal?

The stupidest character is the one the stupidest members of the audience are most likely to identify with.

4. I would think that if anyone on the writing staff were concerned with advancing Marxism, they also never would have let the description of Objectivism be presented accurately, in the same scene.

Not if Objectivism were still only known about by a handful of Americans. But if I were a Hollywood Marxist freshly terrified by the Objectivism I saw in my daughter's philosphy textbook, I'd figure I have nothing to lose by copying a few lines of it into the script of the show so I could have a dumb character turn Atlas upside down.

A similar pattern can be observed in the behavior of the mainstream media. When there is a piece of "embarassing" news that most people don't know about, they'll avoid reporting it as long as they can (witness the student movement in Iran). But when it's not in their power to suppress the news, they cannot afford to just ignore it, lest people get the wrong "perception" of it, so they'll report it--and make sure to spin it. (This is what they did with the fall of Communism, for example. "60-year old Svetlana, from Nizhny Novgorod, says many things were better under the old leadership" etc.)

5. I doubt anyone on that show could have come up with the reference you suggest. It's to subtle and intelligent (albeit wrong). None of the rest of the writing indicated such capacity for such subtlety.

Writing coherent fiction is in itself a task that requires some decent degree of intelligence. Plus, if the author were indeed a dim bulb himself, why would he then be interested enough in Objectivism to have it on his show?

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Has anyone watched the entire show rather than the clip?

I wouldn't try to judge the appearance of Atlas Shrugged based only upon what I saw in the clip, without the context of what came next.

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I remain unconvinced. The throw-away upside-down Atlas line is typical of a very common comic device in American sitcoms, whereas the extremely subtle Marxist advocacy is only supported using a fair amount of conspiracy-theory reasoning. Considering that most Marxist propagandists grasp of subtlety is roughly on par with Al Sharpton's grasp of grammar, I see no reason to make an exception here.

This mystery could be solved by asking the writer. But it won't be solved by me. :o

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Considering that most Marxist propagandists grasp of subtlety is roughly on par with Al Sharpton's grasp of grammar

This is what probably leads to our disagreement. I have read so many subtle and not-so-subtle insinuations by leftist journalists that I could well imagine a leftist show-writer doing something similar.

This mystery could be solved by asking the writer. But it won't be solved by me. :o

Nor by me. ;)

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This mystery could be solved by asking the writer. But it won't be solved by me.  :o

Nor by me. ;)

I'd like to point out one relevant fact. There is no "mystery" for anyone to solve. For a mystery to exist, one must have a question that is connected to reality by some specific evidence.

CF has offered nothing but fantasy -- unsupported speculation. There has been no "reasoning" here whatever. The speculations are not about any mystery, but about an arbitrary claim. It's up to a reasoning mind to recognize and dismiss the arbitrary as such.

To anyone finding themselves thinking that these speculations involve any "reasoning", I suggest a re-reading of pages 163-167 of OPAR subtitled "The Arbitrary as Neither True nor False."

Anyone can assert whatever arbitrary claim(s) he chooses. Here's a sample:

CF could be a Central European Communist plant. I see no reason not to suspect this, because Central Europe is crawling with Communists. His/her purpose is to divert the attention of Objectivists, draining their energy by creating controversy over non-issues. The point of that would be: While Objectivists are engaged in pointless debate, they can't focus their attention on any matter of importance.

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But jokes have meanings too. Silly utterances by dim bulbs have meanings too. Or at least they can have meanings, and this one does; it has a potential interpretation that is very philosphical.

I don't think so. It is precisely because that "dim bulb" of a character is so concrete bound, that philosophical interpretations are completely impossible for him. That was the point of the joke.

And it's not just some obscure stretch of imagination; it's the first thing that comes to your mind if you consider the content, and not the source, of the remark for a moment.

That didn't come to my mind. What I saw was the setup for a romantic rivalry between the dim bulb boyfriend and the smart rich kid who has designs on his girl.

Remember Ellsworth Toohey? He was a funny guy too. He took advantage of the premise that "Jokes are not to be interpreted." Whenever there's a laugh at the end of the sentence, do as if it had not been uttered at all; just laugh, don't think.

Toohey's point was to destroy greatness through ridicule. It looks to me like the dim bulb was being ridiculed, not Atlas Shrugged.

All ideas have consequences.

Indeed! The idea I see conveyed is that dim bulbs can lose out romantically to smart guys who understand and appreciate Ayn Rand.

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CF could be a Central European Communist plant.

Ooops, I've been found out. There goes my paycheck from the KGB! :o

As you've probably inferred from the last line of my previous post, I do not wish to pursue this issue further. I believe I've made my case about as well as I can by now; I realize that some of you remain unconvinced, but it is not my aim to convince everyone. Thank you for the debate, and see you on another thread!

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